This article on chamber board retreats is part of the Meeting the Needs Series that is designed to help chamber professionals meet the individual needs of certain market segments. See the footer of this article for a list of posts in this series.
Last week we covered Meeting the Needs of Your Chamber Board but there’s more to board relations than simply being there for your board and communicating expectations. There are a lot of “behind the scenes” needs that you’re meeting without them realizing. For most of your new board members, it all starts with the chamber board’s retreat.
One of the most important activities you’ll coordinate when it comes to the chamber board is the board retreat. This article will help you with a few tips on how to host a successful chamber board retreat and introduce some fun icebreakers into the mix.
Tips for Hosting the Best Board Retreat Ever
Hosting a great board retreat is about three things:
- creating a strategy and pathway for success
- building stronger relationships between board members
- having fun
If the meeting is missing any of these components, it will be something your board doesn’t look forward to in the future. So how do you get them excited about this very necessary part of what they do?
- Make sure everyone knows why they’re there and what the goal is. Do not meet for meeting’s sake. The more important a board member believes this retreat is, the more prepared they will be.
- Work with the board chair to draft an agenda and make it accessible long in advance of the retreat. If anyone is responsible for presenting or speaking, give them ample warning.
- Don’t shy away from the elephant in the room or the most difficult challenge you’re facing. Put it on the agenda. Even if you don’t feel comfortable naming it, give it a code name and allow time on the agenda to discuss it.
- Get an emcee and a cattle prod. Okay, not really. But you do need someone who can move things along in a beguiling, yet forceful way. If that’s you, great. If not, find someone who fits the bill.
- Feed and water them. Hangry is no good at a chamber board meeting and allowing them to go out to eat will burn valuable time. Bring food in and remember some board members may have dietary needs you should consider like allergies, intolerances, or clean eating.
- Don’t call them icebreakers but do them anyway. Most people hear “icebreakers” and immediately feel the need to excuse themselves. But helping your board get to know one another is important to them being able to work together.
So, let’s talk about ideas for effective icebreakers but let’s just call them fun ways to learn more about the people you’ll be working closely with.
9 Creative Icebreakers for Your Chamber Board’s Retreat
Who better to give creative chamber board icebreaker ideas than other successful chamber pros?
1. What Is It?
Becky Wolfe from the Andover Chamber of Commerce rounds up small pieces of larger items. You don’t want them to be recognizable for what they are. Divide your board members into groups and let them discuss what they think the piece is and what it does. Becky suggested encouraging the teams to make up commercials for their items. This activity gets lots of laughs but also stimulates creative thought.
Give a prize for most imaginative and the correct answer. If your board is younger, you might try using nostalgic items or if your board is older you can play a version using social media acronyms. No Google allowed. Phrases like “What does BD stand for?” could produce some hilarious results.
2. Who Am I?
Ask each person to bring 3 things that are dear to them and share them with the group in the beginning. They can be objects from the job, from their travels, or those of sentimental value. Jennifer Burch from the McPherson Chamber of Commerce suggested, “Even if people know each other, ‘These Three Things’ provides another side to who this person is other than their job.”
Another version of this game has those in the audience try to guess who brought the items based on what they know about them. Sometimes sharing the why behind the answer is more fun than the actual answer.
3. Where Am I?
Playing a round of “Where is that festival?” is also a fun game according to Cheri Wright from the Shenandoah Valley Chamber. You can do it with local towns or name an unusual festival and have people guess where it’s held. You can also divide board members into teams and have them come up with your town’s next festival based on what they think the town is best known for in one word. It can’t be a festival that already exists and doesn’t have to be a crop or something of natural beauty. It could be a feeling.
Don’t worry. No one has to put the festival on.
Denice Harlan shared this fun idea. Take a ball of twine and stand in a circle with your group. The person with the ball of twine starts off by sharing something s/he loves. The first person who says, “Me too,” receives the ball of twine next but the original person holds onto the end. The game repeats by the recipient stating something they love and tossing the twine to someone else who loves it too. The person tossing always holds on to a bit of the twine. Everyone in the circle gets a chance to “love” something. Soon you have a “spaghetti model” of how much you have in common.
5. Cue Cards
This game from the Andover Chamber of Commerce helps people get to know one another. Give each person a cue card on which they write 3 things about themselves that other people in the room don’t know. Collect the cards, shuffle them, and hand them back out to the group ensuring no one gets their own. Then give everyone several minutes to find whose card they have by talking to the others in the room. At the end of the allotted time, the person with the card introduces the person who matches it to the group. Expect laughter.
6. Candy Secrets
Pass around a big bowl of candy. Tell people they can take as many as they want. After all, you want everyone wide awake for the festivities. After everyone has their handfuls, explain to them that each piece of candy stands for a secret, or detail, about themselves they must share. If someone didn’t take any, they default to one secret.
7. Teamwork Activity
Giving your board an exercise that gets them working together is ideal as it sets the stage for the work they’ll be doing on behalf of the chamber. It also helps you see who leads, who is a creative problem solver, and who builds consensus. Jennifer Giampapa tried this activity in her chamber. “We did the robot pen. This is where you write a word on a paper but the team is blindfolded and they have duct tape, pen, and paper. I blindfolded some people, kept one not blindfold but also couldn’t talk, had one able to talk but not participate physically and so forth. They had to write (the word) ‘teams’ and draw a smile on the paper. It went really well and they all agreed it was perfect for where we are at in our chamber.”
8. Memory Game
Want to challenge their memories and creativity? Use this engaging idea from Shelly Stuart at the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce to learn new things about your board and be entertained at the same time. “Give them name tags and have them pair up. Then tell each other three things about themselves. Now, switch name tags. Go to two new people. Have them repeat the three things they learned about the person whose name tag they are wearing. If they can’t remember, have them make it up. Then split and repeat. After everyone has been paired up ask them to repeat out loud the three things from the beginning. Ask the original person if the three things are correct. You’ll be surprised at how much they’ve changed.”
9. Escape Room
The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce hosted a board activity at their local Escape Room and the board members loved it. Most cities have a version of this popular attraction now. They even have board games that help you simulate the escape room experience if you don’t have a nearby attraction.
With the Escape Room, they lock your group in a room together. Participants must solve the mystery with clues to find a way out before time expires. This activity encourages teamwork and creative problem solving, two things your board will need.
A chamber board retreat is one of the most beneficial activities you’ll do together. It sets the tone and creates a foundation for a good working relationship. Helping them to get to know one another on a deeper level so they feel comfortable planning and executing as a team is a worthwhile undertaking, just don’t tell them you’re doing any icebreakers.
Wondering about how to meet the needs of other specific demographics? Read the previous articles in our Meeting the Needs Series.